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Full text of "My country and my people"

THE    ARTISTIC    LIFE                   275
from the development of Chinese calligraphy as an art. The strange pleasure derived from contemplating a picture of barren rocks done in a few strokes and hung on the wall to be looked at day in and day out—this strange pleasure will become understandable to the West when the West has understood the artistic principles of Chinese calligraphy. So fundamental is the place of calligraphy in Chinese art as a study of form and rhythm in the abstract that we may say it has provided the Chinese people with a basic aesthetics, and it is through calligraphy that the Chinese have learned their basic notions of line and form. It is therefore impossible to talk about Chinese art without understanding Chinese calligraphy and its artistic inspiration. There is, for instance, not one type of Chinese architecture, whether it be thepailou, the pavilion or the temple, whose sense of harmony and form is not directly derived from certain types of Chinese calligraphy.
The position of Chinese calligraphy in the history of the world's art is thus truly unique. Owing to the use in writing of the brush, which is more subtle and more responsive than the pen, calligraphy has been elevated to the true level of an art on a par with Chinese painting. The Chinese are fully aware of this when they regard painting and calligraphy as sister arts, shu-hua, "calligraphy and painting," forming almost an individual concept and always being mentioned in the same breath. Should there be a question as to which has a wider appeal, the answer would undoubtedly be in favour of calligraphy. It has thus become an art cultivated with the same passion and devotion, dignified by as worthy a tradition, and held in as high esteem as painting itself. Its standards are just as exacting, and its masters have reached heights as unattainable by the common run of men as the masters in other lines. The great Chinese painters, like Tung Ch'ich'ang and Chao Mengfu, are usually great calligraphists also. Chao Mengfo (1254-1322), one of the best known of Chinese painters, said of his own painting: "Rocks are like ihtfeipo style of writing [with hollow lines in the strokes], and the trees are like the ckuan style of writing [with relatively even and twisted strokes]. The method of painting lies yet in the eeight fundamental strokes* of writing. If there is one who can understand this, he will